PowerPoint & Video Conference Calls: The Rules Haven’t Changed

June 1, 2020

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Someday (hopefully soon) life under COVID-19 will end. When that day comes, many of us will be able to leave our home offices and return to our company’s corporate offices. We will swap video conference calls for real face-to-face interaction. Maybe we’ll even once again attend in-person industry conferences.

But since that day is not here yet, and our work days continue to be filled with countless video conference calls, some including PowerPoint presentations, this seems like the right time to review some tips to prevent against the misuse and abuse of PowerPoint.

Communications Tip of the Month: The rules for creating and delivering an effective PowerPoint presentation have not changed during the current video conferencing era. If you are asked to make a presentation during one of those calls, remember to bring power as well as a point to your presentation.

Unable to effectively use this presentation software, too many speakers use it as a bulletin board (or worse, trash can), the perfect object to hold any and all information that could pertain to the topic at hand.

Here’s one comedian’s take on how NOT to use PowerPoint:

Here’s another humorous take on PowerPoint abuse:

And of course, there are many cartoons about the misuse and abuse of PowerPoint, including this one:

Credit: marketoonist.com

And this one:

Credit: Glasbergen Cartoon Service

And don’t forget this classic:

Credit: WaynoCartoons

While we’re on the subject, here’s a slide from a really smart energy person, one of about 60 delivered in a one-hour talk. It’s too much information raised to the level of an assault. Please don’t do this to your audience!

And try not to make the opposite mistake, as shown in this slide from a military briefing on the war in Afghanistan. Art is almost always better than words, but what’s the point of this slide? That everything is related to everything?

OK, by now I think we get the idea of how NOT to use PowerPoint, either at a video conference or in-person event.

Let’s remember some of the basic rules regarding PowerPoint:

Rule 1: Words are important, but more words are not necessarily better than less words.

Rule 2: Art is important, but don’t go nuts. As with words, more is not always better. Just because you can jam five or more art elements into a slide doesn’t mean you should. Will a busy slide with too many art elements be legible or understandable to the person sitting in the back row of the conference? Put yourself in the shoes of those watching your presentation.


Rule 3:Because people process information in different ways, alternate your content between visual, auditory, and experiential. Take a break from talking and ask the audience to share their experiences on a particular topic. This likely will lead to a richer experience, one where people can learn from other practitioners.

“The trouble with PowerPoint,” Bill Gates supposedly said, “is that usually there’s no power and no point.” There is no shortage of online resources about whether and how to use PowerPoint. Perfectly fine, even terrific, talks can be delivered without the use of PowerPoint. Don’t turn an audience of enthusiastic peers into a room full of zombies by misusing and abusing PowerPoint!

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